Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

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Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sun Feb 01, 2015 2:08 am

So I got thinking about this topic recently when I read one of the Titan novels. Encounter at Farpoint has Picard saying that the Farpoint station is on the edge of explored space - I forget the exact line but it's something like "Past this point lies the great unexplored mass of the galaxy". And as Picard says at the end, "Let's see what's out there!" The indication seems to be that after Farpoint, they're due to head off into the great unknown.

So... here's a breakdown of the missions the Enterprise-D undertook in the ships first year :

1 Encounter at Farpoint : Sent to check out the suspicious Farpoint starbase.
2 The Naked Now : Sent to investigate the loss of contact with the SS Tsiolkovsky.
3 Code of Honor : Sent to Ligon to collect a vaccine and deliver it to another planet.
4 The Last Outpost : Sent to pursue a Ferengi ship which stole Federation property.
5 Where No One Has Gone Before : No mission. Rendezvous with another ship to collect a propulsion specialist for an upgrade.
6 Lonely Among Us : Transporting delegates from two planets to a third planet.
7 Justice : No mission; the ship was on R&R. However they had just finished establishing a new colony.
8 The Battle : No mission. Conducting a meeting with the Ferengi.
9 Hide and Q : On a disaster relief mission after an explosion on a nearby planet.
10 Haven : No stated mission; visiting Haven. Possibly a "show the flag" mission?
11 The Big Goodbye : Meeting an already contacted species.
12 Datalore : No stated mission. Stopping off at Omicron Theta, apparently to have a look around.
13 Angel One : Checking up on missing civilians, seven years after the fact.
14 11001001 : No mission. In Spacedock for upgrades.
15 Too Short a Season : Hostage rescue mission.
16 When the Bough Breaks : Investigating the faint energy readings coming from the Epsilon Mynos.
17 Home Soil : Cataloging young planets in the Pleiades Cluster. On the way, vising a terraforming project.
18 Coming of Age : No stated mission. Visiting a planet, apparently so a couple of kids can do Starfleet entrance tests.
19 Heart of Glory : Investigating a disturbance in the neutral zone.
20 The Arsenal of Freedom : Investigating the disappearence of the USS Drake.
21 Symbiosis : Studying a star undergoing flares.
22 Skin of Evil : No stated mission. Meeting a shuttle to pick Troi up.
23 We'll Always Have Paris : No mission. On their way to Sarona VIII for shore leave.
24 Conspiracy : No mission. On the way to Pacifica, no stated reason.
25 The Neutral Zone : Sitting around waiting for Picard to come back. Mission to the Neutral Zone.

Of those, seven might be described as "security related" (1,2,4,15,19,20,25) - eight, if we assume they were visiting Haven to show the flag. Of course any mission might involve that aspect, but I suggest it as a possibility for Haven because the episode has Haven's leader specifically state that they have no defence capability and the Federation has guaranteed their defence itself. Such an agreement probably involves a ship visiting every few weeks or so.

Four (3,6,7,22) have the ship acting as a transport for personnel or cargo of one sort or another.

Three (16,17,21) involve doing some kind of science or exploration.

Two (8,11) might be described as diplomatic meetings of some sort. You could move 6 to here as well, but it was only transport of diplomats, not actual diplomacy.

Three (16,17,21) have the ship doing scientific research of some sort.

The rest are either no mission at all, shore leave, or miscellaneous minor tasks.

Now one can quibble about these - for instance going to the Edo planet was technically "exploration" since they had obviously not been contacted before... but I haven't classified it that way because exploration wasn't the focus of their being there. They were there to relax and (apparently) screw the locals.

In other words, the ship spends practically no time at all doing any actual exploring. The sum total of their "exploration" is to visit Epsilon Mynos to see what the energy readings are - and that's a system famous for having a legendary lost planet, so it's certainly not unexplored territory. And Cataloging planets in the Pleadies cluster. And studying a star that's flaring up a lot.

And that's pretty much the sum total of the "boldy going" that the Federation flagship does in season 1.

The book I read actually had an interesting take on this. Riker is contemplating whether the Federation got too complacant and/or arrogant - their willingness to accept Farpoint with little to no explanation of it is given as an example. He does accept that the Federation sent the Enterprise to explore that exact question, but as he puts it "Not until 'Farpoint Station' was already completed. Why did we wait so long?"

They talk it back and forth a bit, and he goes on to add :

"The hell of it is, we never really did that much exploring of the Cygnus Reach anyway. The Enterprise was supposed to be the flagship of this new long-term venture into the unknown... but after the Farpoint incident, with no base that far out, it never really took off. The Bandi tried to rebuild Farpoint, but they just weren’t up to the task. Then Starfleet’s priorities shifted and the Enterprise spent most of its tour closer to home, conducting diplomatic or relief missions. In the end, everything that creature suffered, it was all for nothing. We compromised our principles for nothing, and all in the name of an ideal."

I love when the books do stuff like this, expanding on and giving context and detail to the stuff in the series and movies. And I especially like this one because it depicts a Federation failure, and not in some grand sense, not something where a terrible enemy defeated them... but the more mundane failure that comes from just bad planning, or lack of will to follow through, or things just plain not working out as you expected and hoped. I can easily imagine the GCS project was driven by some grand intent to go and explore past known space, and then just as that was about to happen, there's the Farpoint stumble. And perhaps a new administration was looking to cut back on Starfleet's budget (or future-moneyless-space-commie-utopia-equivalent of a budget), and just said "screw it, those Galaxy class ships can stay in known space and do what the rest of the fleet does."

Anyway, I thought that was an interesting perspective on TNG' so I thought I'd share it.
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Re: Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

Postby Teaos » Sun Feb 01, 2015 8:27 am

I always found it odd that the Flagship would go off into unexplored sapce and not be at hand to show up when needed.

The Flagship should be the one to do tours of Federation space and show up at troublesome boarders.
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Re: Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:21 am

Guess it depends on what your priorities are.
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Re: Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

Postby Mikey » Sun Feb 01, 2015 12:44 pm

I tend to agree with Teaos on this; it was made very clear that the E-D was the foremost everything ship, and was even assumed by alien observers to be a the premier warship of Starfleet - patently not a science ship or simple long-range explorer.
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Re: Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sun Feb 01, 2015 1:51 pm

But they did make a pretty big deal in the first episode that they were planning to head off into the great unexplored mass of the galaxy beyond Deneb, yes? That seemed to be the idea the writers kicked off with... only they never actually went in that direction with the episodes.

To be clear, I'm not saying that's a bad thing at all. I just find it interesting, and especially that the books picked up on it and used it as backstory.
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Re: Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

Postby Mikey » Sun Feb 01, 2015 2:14 pm

In real life as in fiction, I've heard plenty of "I'm going to's..." I don't set much store in them until they turn into "I did's."
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Re: Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

Postby Teaos » Sun Feb 01, 2015 11:17 pm

Yeah it was probably lip service.

"yeah this is all about the exploring and nothing to do with the BFG's"
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Re: Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

Postby sunnyside » Tue Feb 03, 2015 5:47 pm

Teaos wrote:I always found it odd that the Flagship would go off into unexplored sapce and not be at hand to show up when needed.

The Flagship should be the one to do tours of Federation space and show up at troublesome boarders.


I think it makes sense given the setting. Unlike in our Age of Exploration where flagships were slow and ponderous things, with the Federation the biggest and newest also tends to be the fastest and have the highest endurance. So they're particularly well suited to explore.

There is also a lot to be said for putting your best foot forward in first contact situations. That also wasn't such an issue in our Age of Exploration since you just expected to find some canoes you could shoot up if you felt like it. Not run into something as if not more advanced or powerful like the Enterprises are always doing.

Though it also makes sense to call the flagship in for something important, and in regards to the OP I did feel like TNG was more about interactions and diplomacy thematically. I'm not sure if it's true, but the impression I had was that they were exploring by operating around the edge of Federation space. In three dimensional space there's going to be a lot of edge. Like in 4 The Last Outpost they're chasing Ferengi, which wouldn't be anything special in DS9, but at that time the Federation had made no contact with them and just had vague rumors, and the Enterprise was quickly in uncharted space once they took chase.
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Re: Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

Postby Mikey » Wed Feb 04, 2015 12:37 pm

Just a nitpick, during the Age of Sail the largest and most ponderous-looking ships were able to raise exponentially greater areas of canvas, and generally made far superior straight-line knottage than smaller ships. Add that those bigger vessels were actually ships (that is, they were ship-rigged rather than brig, brigantine, barque, barquentine, sloop, or schooner rigged) and they surely couldn't run away or at angles like the smaller boats but had a definite sail-plan advantage when running to. Plus, they could mount taller masts and run with topgallants and skyscrapers in favorable weather.
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Re: Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

Postby sunnyside » Wed Feb 04, 2015 5:25 pm

Mikey wrote:Just a nitpick, during the Age of Sail the largest and most ponderous-looking ships were able to raise exponentially greater areas of canvas, and generally made far superior straight-line knottage than smaller ships. Add that those bigger vessels were actually ships (that is, they were ship-rigged rather than brig, brigantine, barque, barquentine, sloop, or schooner rigged) and they surely couldn't run away or at angles like the smaller boats but had a definite sail-plan advantage when running to. Plus, they could mount taller masts and run with topgallants and skyscrapers in favorable weather.


Interesting. But I don't think that's correct. I mean we aren't talking about steel reinforced Windjammers. Frigates would typically have the same length and number of masts as a first rater, and my impression was that material constraints (trees, wood) meant that they couldn't actually increase the height and width of the masts a great deal, but the first rater is going to have substantially more displacement and thus lower speeds.

A very quick search didn't turn up good info for ships from that period. But looking up famous contemporary vessels from a bit later (HMS Victory and USS Constitution) shows similar lengths and numbers of masts, but Victory's 5,440 m² of sail to Constitutions 3,968 m² is only a 37% increase.
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Re: Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

Postby Mikey » Wed Feb 04, 2015 5:42 pm

Using terms like "frigate" is tricky - generally that referred to a vessel that was typically of a certain rating - i.e., number of guns and number of gun decks - and/or used for a particular purpose (interdiction, blockade, end-of-the-line support, etc.) The criterion to which I'm referring is sail plan. A frigate (for example) could have been a brig, a snow-brig, a hermaphrodite brig, a barque, a barquentine, a sloop-of-war, a ship, a two-masted ship-rig (which of course is basically a snow without a spanker,) et. al.

Further, while things like RBM of oak wouldn't change from a simple Bermuda sloop to the largest four-masted ship, the big ship could mount a main or mizzen with a far grteater circumference at the base than that of the main on a sloop... leading, of course, to a far greater RBM of the main on the bigger ship and to a possibly taller main. Certainly larger "ships"* seemed to much more commonly have topgallants, royals, or moonrakers (the latter two of which were almost never seen on anything less than three-masted ship-rigged vessels.)

As I said, the flexibility of both the sailplans which including spankers or sloop-rigged sails (brigs, snows, sloops, etc.) certainly allowed for greater maneuverability and far greater speed when running across, the greater number of masts and larger area of canvas per mast allowed greater straight-line speed when running ahead on course.

* - I use the term "ship" in quotes because we use it to denote larger vessels, such as ships-of-the-line, of any type; but when discussing sailplans the word refers to ships specifically - that is, vessels of three or more masts, square-rigged on all with a possible spanker on the rear.
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Re: Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

Postby Captain Seafort » Wed Feb 04, 2015 7:08 pm

sunnyside wrote:A very quick search didn't turn up good info for ships from that period. But looking up famous contemporary vessels from a bit later (HMS Victory and USS Constitution) shows similar lengths and numbers of masts, but Victory's 5,440 m² of sail to Constitutions 3,968 m² is only a 37% increase.


And yet if they'd raced each other in their prime, Old Ironsides could have found herself in trouble. Victory was famous for her speed, at Trafalgar both she and Royal Sovereign handily outran the rest of their columns (and ended up in trouble because of it), and in the right conditions she was known to outsail her frigates..
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Re: Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

Postby Mikey » Wed Feb 04, 2015 8:31 pm

He's also trying to show the differences between the two sailplans when both ships had the same sailplan. Of course there isn't much of a difference in the total canvas area between those two - the USS Constitution carried a three-masted ship-rig comprising foremast, mainmast, and mizzen with a spanker; HMS Victory, as close as I can tell, carried a three-masted ship-rig featuring a foremast, mainmast, and mizzen with a horse. That argument is like saying that no people vary from each other because this pair of twins is similar to each other.

Either that, or Sunnyside mistakenly believes that the vessel's designation (heavy frigate, etc.) or rating has more of an effect on canvas area than rigging plan.
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Re: Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

Postby Captain Seafort » Wed Feb 04, 2015 8:43 pm

That's not how I read it. As far as I can tell, his argument is simply that the ships of the line were much bigger and heavier but had similar sail areas, and were therefore slower.
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Re: Just how much exploration did the Enterprise-D do?

Postby Mikey » Wed Feb 04, 2015 10:31 pm

Hmm. Perhaps. I read his indication that Old Ironside's sailplan was "only" 37% smaller than HMS Victory's, even though the Constitution was "only" a heavy frigate, as an assumption that one would expect the difference to be greater based on the difference in role designation/number of guns/beam and draft/whatever rather than the similarity in rig. In fact, that 37% is probably only due to the inclusion of royals and moonrakers on Victory and the size difference between a horse and a spinnaker.
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